Thursday, April 10, 2008
Reverence and Awe
With the advent of contemporary worship, there has come a radical paradigm shift in the way that Christians approach God. The friendship of God is so emphasized that the worshiper forgets the glory and majesty of God. Yes, Hebrews invites us to approach God with boldness and confidence, but does that mean we approach Him so casually without any reverence and awe?
A local church recently pulled its pews from the nave in order to accommodate tables and chairs. Now the worshipers can come with their lattes and relax while the band plays really rad music. I suspect the church lady might say something like, "Isn't that special? Where did you get the idea for that? Could it be....SATAN?"
In the past there were some good, solid customs established in the worship of the Church that helped inspire a sense of reverence and awe for the majesty of God. The pews had kneelers and the worshipers knelt to offer prayer and thanksgiving to God. Before entering the pew you would kneel toward the altar as a sign of reverence for God's gifts. At the name of Jesus people would bow their heads. Christians would bow slightly at the Gloria Patri. When it came to the "incarnatus est" clause of the creed, the parishioner would bow deeply as a sign of reverence for the doctrine of the incarnation. Christians would make the sign of the cross at the invocation, absolution, the end of the creed, at receiving the elements, and at the benediction. Another old custom, and one that is worthy of imitation, was to bow at the consecration of the elements. They recognized, as we should, that Christ is truly and physically present in, with, and under the elements because of the consecration.
Now, of course, this can all be done in a hypocritical fashion without any true reverence in the heart for our Savior, but these old customs also had the advantage of reminding people they were in the presence of God. God is to be treated with reverence and awe. Although we approach God with boldness and confidence, we do not approach Him in a casual way.
Think about how the worshipers in the Scriptures approached God. When Moses met God at the burning bush, he not only took off his shoes but fell on his face. When Isaiah was ushered into the presence of God, He cried out, "Woe is me; I am undone. For I have seen the Holy One of Israel." When the apostle John saw the image of Christ in a vision in the book of Revelation he fell on his face, John says, "as a dead man." Don't we believe that God Himself is truly present with us in worship anymore?
So leave your latte at home and remember that it is no small thing to be in the presence of a holy God. Come and worship with a sense of reverence and awe.